That’s what one Swedish city found. Recently, researchers in the country’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, conducted a 23-month study testing a six-hour workday for nurses in an eldercare facility. From February 2015 to December 2016, the researchers examined the effects that a shorter work week had on 68 female nurses, a profession that is considered highly stressful. The nurses’ hours were cut, but their pay was not.
They found that, as a result of working shorter days, the nurses’ productivity levels increased. They took fewer days off and were reportedly happier and more energetic. Overall, nurses who worked six hours a day took 4.7 percent fewer sick days than when they worked eight-hour days.
The proportion of nurses who still had energy after their shifts also increased -- from approximately 20 percent to 50 percent for those who worked six hours a day. This extra energy may be partly why the six-hour-day group increased their physical activity by 24 percent over the study’s duration. “Less tiredness and more physical activities is the major improvement,” Bengt Lorentzon, one of the researchers who conducted the study, told The Washington Post.
However, the study did not last long enough to determine whether shorter workdays would result in long-term improved health for employees -- and thereby reduced healthcare costs for employers -- Lorentzon noted.
The study concluded that by working shorter days, nurses managed their duties better and were happier, healthier and less stressed. “They would go the extra mile,” Lorentzon said. “They had more time to sit down and listen, read a book, look at a newspaper with [patients] or comfort those not feeling so good.”
Employers considering shorter work weeks for employees might worry about the costs of having to make additional hires to fill in shifts (as in the case of nurses) outweighing the savings that more productive employees would bring. But for businesses that don’t rely on shift workers, the potential for increased productivity might make six-hour days worth experimenting with.